Many small agencies had a good year in '98, both from a business and creative standpoint. Several saw impressive growth, in some cases doubling in size. An increasing number of boutiques also found themselves working for well-known brands.
nThe Ad Store, New York, won new assignments from Sara Lee Corp. and Comedy Central, in addition to producing a TV campaign for Land o' Lakes' Alpine Lace deli products. It also continued to license its name to autonomous agencies abroad, adding what President Paul Cappelli calls "affiliates" in Moscow and Tahiti.
Black Rocket, San Francisco, formed in 1996 by former Goodby and Hal Riney & Partners alums, won new project work from E&J Gallo Winery as well as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's Discover Brokerage and Conde Nast's Wired. Sadly, although it handles Yahoo!, agency bosses don't own Yahoo! stock.
Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, Calif., says billings grew 30% in '98 as it added clients Jamba Juice, Fox Interactive, E-Greetings and Seagram Wines. It was fired by Round Table pizza, but Partner John Butler reports he celebrated the holidays with Domino's.
Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, almost doubled in size -- from a reported $55 million to $103 million in billings -- much of it due to winning the state of Florida's anti-tobacco pilot program. Creative Director Alex Bogusky says he keeps running into agency employees who he's never met.
Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif., moved into new digs and almost doubled in size. It produced an epic 2-minute spot to launch the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas and created a character called "The Rick" for ESPN. Creative Director Court Crandall reported the agency, with a staff of 45, produced approximately 150 TV spots last year.
Gyro Worldwide, Philadelphia, claims '98 was the year it had to grow up, and certainly its restrained work for GlenfiddichScotch whisky suggests it has. CEO Steven Grasse said the shop opened an office in Los Angeles and is scouting locations in London. The agency spent a good part of the year planning its introduction of a clothing line called Sailor Jerry, and it formed GyroHomo, a gay and lesbian marketing arm.
Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co., Santa Monica, Calif., also known as Secret Weapon Marketing (none of its principals will explain what SWM is or does), won awards in '98 for its Jack in the Box fast-food chain work. And it was assigned the global launch of Porsche's new 911 Turbo -- although it lost out on Porsche's overall account, which went to Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis.
Odiorne Wilde Narraway & Partners, San Francisco, said it won Teva Sandals, Salon, All Apartments.com and projects for Turner Broadcasting and Joe Boxer. The agency added partners, moved into new space, upped its staff to 26, started a planning department and an interactive division -- and won a Gold Effie.
WongDoody, Seattle, opened an office in Santa Monica, doubled its staff to more than 40 and broke national campaigns for Fox and videogamers MGM Interactive and Psygnosis. The agency was officially awarded Alaska Airlines, after servicing it on a project basis for several years. The shop doubled the size of its Internet division and won the top prize in the International Andy Awards for its campaign